There have been many comments made about this year, but this will be a Scottish Cup Final like no other. There will be no fans, and it is being held 5 days before Christmas instead of it's usual time of the year when it is the end of season glamour showpiece.
The Scottish Cup is a tournament that has been running since 1873, and during that time not one club has ever won it 4 times in a row. Celtic have the chance to be the first team in 147 years to achieve that accolade. We have won the trophy 39 times so far - more than any other club, and will hopefully become the first to reach 40 wins.
Along with the cup history, this victory would see Celtic become the first team globally to win 4 domestic trebles in a row. That is potentially, quite an achievement, as cup competitions are notoriously uncompromising. One off day and the record is gone, as was proven recently when we lost in the League Cup to Ross County.
The big question pre-match was how many of the youngsters who had done so well in the last two games, after a disastrous run, would keep their place for the final. Would Scott Brown, the legendary Captain of the club come in to bring his vast experience in winning trophies to bear, or would Neil Lennon go with Soro who had performed very well in the heart of the midfield engine room recently? Turnbull and Hazard would also be big calls for the manager pre game, but it would be the introduction of the Captain, that would be the only major change. Frimpong, who has been a little up and down in form, would make way for Ryan Christie and Brown would indeed replace Soro in midfield.
Pre-match I will say that I think the introduction of Brown, with all the experience he can bring to the team under pressure, is actually the right thing to do. Ninety minutes of football with the possibility of extra time and penalties, will determine if that opinion is correct. The team is as follows.
You have to say that the starting team should be strong enough to win this game and the bench is VERY strong. If we are having an off day and Hearts are up for the game, we have players on the bench who can come on and make a big difference.
Taking a look at the opposition - Hearts will come into this game with higher confidence than normal, due to the frailty of Celtic in recent times. This is the ideal time to catch us in a cup competition if yu are a team coming to face us. Hearts are a big club, despite their relegation to the Championship when the season was scrapped earlier this year. They have a Premiership strength squad and beat a good Hibs team in the semi final. Naismith will be desperate to beat us and the addition of Gordon in goal will improve them. You have to think that Craig Gordon will want to prove a point to Neil Lennon after being let go in the transfer window too. Boyce is a very decent player up front too and they will prove a threat going forward.
Hearts line up..
GordonSubs : Stewart, Haring, Lee, Roberts, Wighton, Frear, Popescu, Ginelly, Henderson.
Smith Halkett Berra Kingsley
Walker Naismith White
It all points to a weird, but exciting final for a competition started in 2019. Now, to the action...
Hearts strarted brightly, and Berra had a chance within the first 2 minutes from a free kick on the right. Hazard had to look smart as the defender got a touch on the ball twelve yards out that he sent goalbound, but Celtic's young keeper got down well and smothered the weak effort.
Taylor had a wayward effort soar badly over the bar after being teed up by Elyounoussi on the left, following good play from Ajer and Christie on the right.
Steven Naismith was lucky not to find himself sent off after clearly stepping on the leg of Scott Brown, as the Captain lay on the ground after tackling the Hearts player.
Celtic dominated the early proceedings with the exception of a mix up that nearly allowed Naismith a chance but the breakthrough would come on 19 minutes, and it was a thing of beauty.
The ball broke off a Hearts defenders White's head to Ryan Christie 20 yards out. He moved the ball on to his favuored left peg, and curled it beautifully round Christophe Berra into the right hand post of the despairing Craig Gordon. It was very well struck and hit with pinpoint accuracy.
Celtic came close again after some dazzling footwork from Odsonne Edouard at thed ge of the box. His lay off came close on two occasions, with Brown eventually skewing the ball wide.
A penalty came after a corner flighted in by Turnbull was nodded forward by Duffy which hit the flailing arm of Berra in an unnatural position. Edouard stepped up and his Panenka penalty was a thing of beauty, lobbing infuriatingly over the former Celtic keeper to double the lead.
Halliday was booked after fouling Brown with a late challenge, much to his chagrin, shortly before Turnbull had an effort over the bar from the edge of the box.
34 minutes saw Edouard come close again. He really should have scored after good work from Ajer saw the ball drop to him 8 yards out but it was a tame effort that probably should have been lifted over the keeper.
Naismith almost pounced on a header from Elyounoussi in his own box that was intended to go back to the keeper, but Hazard had to be quick to come out and stop the Hearts man from getting a crucial touch.
The first half drew to a close with the holders in control with a 2 nil lead. The possession and general play has so far led to complete control for Celtic in the initial 45 minutes and Hearts have failed to make a mark on the game so far. Robbie Neilson at half time will have to make some big decisions to get his team to have any chance whatsoever to even make any kind of dent in this lead. Celtic are in cruise control and you get the feeling that only errors from us can make this game change.
One bit of news was that Robbie Nielson was yellow carded at the interval after words with Brother Beatton. Odd one.
Hearts did get back in it 2 minutes after the break. White did very well on the left and got the ball to Halliday on the wing. The former Rangers player chipped a ball into the box right on to the head of Boyce who nodded down into the right hand corner .
Eddy nearly restored the two goal advantage when McGregor put Taylor into a good position down the left. The little left back crossed for Edouard and his little clip off the heel was well saved by Craig Gordon.
Turnbull set up Elyounoussi with a delightful chip into the Norwegians path, but his shot was easily saved at the near post by Gordon for a corner just before Walker was replaced by Ginelly for Hearts.
The substitution nearly made an immediate impact when Duffy and Jullien made a complete hash of a clearance to lay the ball into the strikers path. Ginelly moved in on the goal but his effort was well saved by Connor Hazard when Hearts should have been level. Hearts came close again but for a bit of bravery from Elyounoussi from a corner.
A great tackle from Duffy stoppped Naismith rushing in on goal, as hearts ramped up the pressure with a variety of attacks, possession and corners. Hearts did equalise from one of these corners. Ginelly put the ball in and a header at the back post from Kingsley was adjudged to have crossed the line. A two goal lead demolished within 23 minutes of the start of the second half.
Edouard was a fraction out again after a good break down the left from Elyounoussi, taken out of the game, but the free ball fell to Taylor and his cross was met by the Frenchman who couldn't steer the ball home.
Rogic, who had come on for Turnbull, almost sent Moi free on the left, but the midfielder had strayed a little offside. Hearts put on Lee for White with ten minutes to go, Putting Halliday to left back. Laxalt and Frimpong came on for Taylor and Elyounoussi at much the same time, which would see Christie move into the wide left position of midfield.
The game fell into a bit of a lull until Hearts broke away with five minutes of extra time to play. Ginelly nearly won the cup with a strike that went way over the bar thanks to an Ajer challenge just before he struck the ball, but a real chance scorned by the Championship side.
For the first time since 2006, extra time in the Scottish Cup would come to fruition.
Celtic needed some impetus, and Neil Lennon would hope that thet would come from the introduction of Mikey Johnston for Shane Duffy. Ajer would slot into the centre half position with Frimpong at right back and Christie going back to the right.
Celtic, lacking any real cutting edge, decide to change Edouard for Griffiths up front. Christie took an effort from outside the box but it was well over this time as a general malaise seemed to be setting in.
Who would it be but Leigh Griffiths to pop up and put Celtic into the lead against his old adversaries? A great corner kick was bulleted towards goal by Scott brown. the save by Gordon was excellent, but there was wee Leigh to pounce on the rebound to fire the ball high into the net to give the Hoops the lead again.
Half time in extra time was called. Could Hearts find an equaliser or could Celtic go on to lift this trophy. Soro on for Brown in the break.
Rogic danced beautifully down the left but his wonderful run never found a team mate at the end for what could have been a beautiful passage of play.
Christie gave away a needless free kick on the hearts left which was flighted in past the hapless Hazard to Kingsley who headed across goal only to be knocked in by Josh Ginelli at the back post. Terrible defensively from Celtic, it has to be said.
Another Hearts free kick came close as Halkett nodded wide with a few minutes remaining. Rogic nearly picked out a winner with a minute to go. Laxalt played well on the left and found Rogic inside, but his late effort went very narrowly wide.
Unfortunately this particular Scottish Cup, after leading by two goals, would be decided on penalties.
First for Hearts was Naismith. Down the middle and in.
For Celtic Leigh Griffiths. Low and hard and in.
Smith for Hearts. High and hard and well taken.
Mcgregor steps up. Beautifully taken into the corner.
Lee for Hearts. smoothly into the corner as Hazaed goes the wrong way.
Christie puts it to Gordon's left but it is high and easily saved.
Kingsley barely walks up and a very poor kick is easily saved low by Hazard.
Johnston nets well into the left corner for 3-3
Wighton. Long run but saved to the right by Hazard.
Ajer for the win.
He blasts it into the middle of the net for an HISTORIC win.
Come on you boys in Green!!!!